Have you ever anointed yourself the reigning sergeant of the “recycling police”? If you’re an eco-sympathizer, you have probably tried on the role at least once at your place of employment, a friend’s party or certainly in your very own household. For newbies, swiftly diverting newspapers, cardboard, glass, metal and plastic from a doomed future of landfill entombment can often require vigilant determination, patience and a keen eye on the garbage pail, but with enough practice, it becomes as second nature as tying the laces on your sustainably stylish shoes. So, how do yesterday’s mobile phones fit into the equation? With roughly 130 million of them cast aside on a yearly basis in the U.S. (a mere 10% are actually recycled), our society needs some serious cell phone intervention. Unless we resist the perpetual urge to upgrade to the latest greatest bells-and-whistles model, our cell phone habit will continue to fuel an ever-escalating e-waste problem that results in soil and water contamination via toxic materials. Even though “old” cell phones are deemed obsolete by the public and manufacturers, they’re still made of various recyclable materialssuch as platinum, palladium, gold, copper, silver and plastic that could conceivably yield millions upon millions of dollars in precious metals when harvested in bulk. Additionally, the EPA says that water, energy and greenhouse gases could be significantly cut even if just 1 million old cell phones were properly recycled (the equivalent of getting 33 vehicles off the road for 365 days). Fortunately, there are more unique recycling options available to well-intentioned consumers than ever before. The following programs are designed to lure us into dusting off our unwanted cell phones so we responsibly divert them from the landfill. In many cases, compensation is even offered for helping the planet, so what are you waiting for? Green it like you mean it!
  • Gazelle: Using their online form, enter specific details and the estimated condition of your unwanted cellular device. Print out a postage-paid label, send your phone to them and once Gazelle confirms that the details and condition of your phone are accurate, they’ll issue you a check for fair market value within a few days (you can also choose to donate the sum to charity). Even if Gazelle determines that your unwanted phone has no market value, they will responsibly recycle it for you.
  • EcoSquid: Eliminating endless hours of Internet research for the consumer, EcoSquid enables you to find out which companies will pay top dollar for your unwanted cell phone(s) just by typing the brand and model number into their search bar. Once you select the most appealing offer, EcoSquid automatically links you to the company website of your choosing in order to finalize the deal.
  • Plant My Phone: For those who want to pass on the cash in favor of doing something selfless and equally beneficial for the planet, Plant My Phone offers two different ways to ship your unwanted phone to them at no cost. Once they receive your hunk of hardware, they’ll responsibly break the phone down into its recyclable components and use the money earned from the sale of the materials to bankroll an ambitious tree-planting project in 12 countries. For each 2-year-old cell phone they receive, they’ll plant as many as 15 trees (depending on the value of the device and accompanying accessories). As a nice thank you, they even offer donors the chance to win $1,000!
  • Call2Recycle: While Call2Recycle offers no financial or immediate environmental incentive for recycling old phones, they do offer convenience. With collection boxes in more than 50,000 locations across the U.S. (including Best Buy, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Sears locations), the service appeals to mainstream yet well-intentioned consumers who desire instant “greenification.” Plus, it feels good knowing that you’re doing right by Mother Nature.
  • ecoATM: Modeled after coin-to-cash self-serve kiosks, this system — with 300+ locations — enables consumers to receive cash or coupons when they deposit their electronic devices (such as old cell phones) directly into ecoATM stations. Like PlantMyPhone, this company partners with organizations such as Trees For The Future and Sustainable Harvest International in an effort to help offset carbon emissions and make the world a greener place.